Well, the answer for me is YES… and perhaps I should add, only in Dubai.
Just last week, I was meeting a friend at the Galleria Mall in al Barsha, Dubai (the neighbourhood behind the Mall of the Emirates – the one with the ski slope) and upon entering I saw a coffee shop, La Gente.
Always the sceptical coffee snob, I decided to pop my head in, where I saw a Synesso machine to my right, lots of roasted coffee in retail bags, coupled with their black and grey marble interior. On the left they have seating on high tables but they also have seats outside the coffee shop. I then walked further in and spotted this….
A Probat (think, Mercedes of coffee roasters and yes, it’s made in Germany). Impressed I promptly asked “do you actually roast coffee in this machine in this mall?” and they replied “yes sir”. So, I thought “I can’t really come in here, quiz them and not order coffee”. So as soon as my friend joined me, we went for it together with some cakes… blueberry, ummm!.
First up, they have a variety of coffee on order. For espresso, they had a Brazil, which my friend took and then I asked them for their house blend… Brazil, Ethiopia and Costa Rica… aha! now this might not seem exciting to you BUT for me it was, why ?
Lets rewind to 2008-2009 – this was the era of espresso blends – the time before single origin was even thought off for espresso.
so, fast forward to 2022 and the main reasons why I was excited by this blend is because this exact combination was indeed the flavour of the years back then, because you used
Brazil for body, crema and chocolate and nut
Costa Rica for acidity
Ethiopia for fruitiness
so, now guess what I ordered …
A cortado using their house blend of course, with some kind of seahorse on the latte art design.
Yes, it was flavourful as I got to sample a mirage of fruit, medium acidity and hints of almond and dark chocolate.
If I’m ever at that end of Dubai again, I’ll try their filter blend options, for which they were offering three options.. see below
Apparently they have three branches, Galleria Mall, where I went, Eden House and Motorworks.
Always out for a scent (pun intended) of coffee adventure, I asked my fellow coffee geek, Naveed, for this favourite new coffee spots in Dubai and I was presented with two options, and I chose Coterra, located in Umm Ramool, near the airport and closet to me as I had run out of espresso coffee and needed coffee quick – and no, I’m not an addict – I just like or should I say, love coffee. I was even surprised that a coffee shop existed in this part of the bustling city that Dubai is and to be honest, had to check google maps twice to make sure I wasn’t headed in the wrong direction – confession … on my way there, I took the wrong turning.
So, upon arriving you are greeted with this Muriel of colours – in fact it reminds me of something you might find in another part of the World, like in South America. Okay, let’s go in.
Upon entering, it was like a hidden gem indeed. I was greeted with a brew bar to my right accompanied with a complimentary cup of Arabic coffee by, I presume the cafe manager and to my left I spotted not one but two Giesen coffee roasters covered in their brand colours of green of course – I hasten to add, Giesen is a fave with serious coffee roasters.
As I walked further into the cafe to take some pictures, I also noted what looked like a sensory lab… decked with a coffee tasting chart – the wheel of fortune for all coffee sensory nerds.
Already looking impressed, I noticed a gentleman walking up to me and I did this thing that my wife always rolls her eyes – yes, having travelled extensively in Africa, I try and spot accents as a way to connect with people and I instantly picked up head barista, Mickey’s, as being from Kenya. After exchanging greetings (Karibu is welcome in Swahili) adding that I had been to Kenya several times and to the famous Coffee Research Institite in Ruiru, just outside Nairobi, Mickey had this look that if I could read minds, could be summed up as “oh, this guy knows and loves coffee” , so he presented me with a few options for tasting their coffee over my two hour stay.
First up, was a Costa Rican coffee for my daily cortado. I must confess, I was highly skeptical as my previous memories of Costa Rican coffee is that they tend to be on the higher acidity side, not bad for filter but as an espresso, I didn’t really want to drink something that might remind me of orange juice and milk – the two just don’t mix, literally.
Looks good doesn’t it? My skepticism disappeared after the first sip, as my tongue was washed with subtle fruit with hints of caramel and berries, but not over bearing. Of course, I then quizzed Mickey about how he had brewed my coffee, to which he explained the process adopted using their Dalla Corte “zero barista” espresso machine. So, here’s a short diversion for the coffee geeks.
In summary, the espresso machine is built with a Digital Flow Regulation (DFR) using an exclusive and patented technology that allows you to digitally control the quantity of water whilst you extract an espresso – this is important because this is where aromas and flavours are developed. By being able to regulate the flow, you can vary acidity, sweetness and body according to the requests of your customers, leading them toward a new concept of tasting. For just one type of coffee variety, more tastings are possible, different from one another. (courtesy Dalla Corte)
So, what does that mean ? In short Mickey was able to manipulate the coffee and reduce the acidity whilst brewing my coffee, WOW! I love learning new stuff about coffee.
Before I left, I had an espresso on the house and an exquisite Colombian coffee, brewed on the Hario V60.
I was also lucky enough to meet with the pleasant owner, Mohamed, who gave me his card and explained the name behind the brand – CO for coffee and TERRA(latin for land), so “coffee land”. He also mentioned that his partner is from Nepal.
I left with two bags of coffee roasted for espresso, one, their Space Blend and the other, can you believe it? Costa Rican, roasted for espresso.
In short, if you are on the way to the airport and want a quick good tasting coffee before you fly, then make this your last stop. Otherwise, it isn’t that far from downtown Dubai – say 10 minutes drive. As of now I’m still enjoying their coffees.
Coterra are located at 18 9th street, Umm Ramool, Dubai – use google maps
Yes, you read that right and before you get the geography books, Riyadh is the capital city of Saudi Arabia (aka KSA). About a year ago, I started a job there as a Director of a Think Tank, which I did for 9 months – now why wouldn’t you take a job entitled Director of Think and where you are asked to think about how to change the world leveraging AI and robotics to solve healthcare and environmental problems – well, I did. If you want to know more, check my LinkedIn profile here for all the other serious stuff I talk about.
Before I delve into coffee, you’d be amazed to learn that KSA has got fantastic scenery, with the famous “edge of the world” a few hours outside Riyadh, a must go see. Here I am at another location.
As this is about coffee and love, you’d be amazed to know that the coffee scene is thriving in the heart of Arabia – after all, the Arabs named the best coffee variety “arabica” after themselves. Reportedly, the Saudi population spent an estimated US$300m in cafes alone in the first half of 2021 – now, that’s a lot of coffee – US$1.6m per day in a city of over 8m people – you could have lots of fun with these facts. Before I move on, I should add that Saudi Arabia have their own coffee culture too. After all, the first officially recognised coffee shop in the World was in Mecca. Now, here’s a summary of what I saw for myself based on what I should say “third wave” coffee;
there’s a coffee shop almost on every corner or shop cluster
people queue for coffee shops even at 10pm at night
people go to cafes to drink coffee even at midnight and beyond
the La Marzocco distributor must be happy as these machines are in the majority of coffee shops
there are many speciality coffee shops, serving hard to get Yemeni coffee
Saudi’s love Ethiopian coffee, importing three times more than the UAE (industry insight)
Even one of the local chains pays a great attention to detail in preparation
Yes, cold coffees are very popular, after all in the summer, 45C is normal for weeks
I visited one of the largest coffee shops in the World
So, here’s a quick summary of my coffee shop experience – drink on….
I’m starting with probably my favourite. You may easily get distracted by the impressive muriel but the coffee on offer is also quite impressive. First up, you can order their normal selection of coffees, which range from espresso based, cold brew and filter too, BUT upon close inspection at the till, you will be ecstatic to learn that they offer Cup of Excellence (CoE) coffees too. Yes, CoE are highly rated by world experts and naturally these coffees cost a lot more but if you want to treat yourself, you can pick up a really special coffee for about $65 for a 250g bag of coffee.
I, on the other hand, opted a for a special Yemeni coffee for about $24 for a 250g. Also on offer is food but the main reason that Brew 92 is one of my faves is the quality of coffee on offer and their attention to selecting coffees and preparation.
Another one of my faves, recommended by my former colleague, as it’s his fave is Camel Step. They have a few locations but I only went to one – it was after dinner and I really wanted my after dinner coffee, so I opted for a V60 Ethiopian. To continue the experience at home, I bought a bag of coffee for my travels and to take back with me. Wow! I really enjoyed brewing this coffee at my hotel room every night during Ramadhan and upon my return to Dubai, where I shared it with my friend, Naveed. In short, the coffee was roasted in a way that really showed their attention to detail in their selection process and their roasting profile.
A bit difficult to pronounce but before I arrived in Riyadh, this was top of my list as a friend of mine had visited and said I had to go there. It was a bit far from my hotel but worth the wait and I’m grateful for my friend who took us there at night. As I entered, I couldn’t believe the size of the place, not to mention the number of La Marzocco espresso machines they had, including the latest, LEVA – see below.
It was like a factory. I’m sure if they were in the middle of any major city like London or NYC, they would be able to serve an espresso based drink very quickly with a lot of baristi to work the machines like clockwork. Watch video below to grasp the size of this place.
As soon as you pass the la marzocco gallery, you can spot a very large Loring coffee roaster to your right – definitely the biggest coffee roasting machine I’ve seen in my life. As you walk to the back, there’s tons of tools galore, right from the entrance on your left, all the way to the back with la marzocco linea machines, brewing gadgets and of course coffee. There’s also a little sitting area at the top. Again, definitely the largest coffee space I’ve ever been and a must if you visit Riyadh.
Now, this is unusual for me, as I hardly ever feature a coffee chain BUT this was my go to every morning or at lunch time, as one of their shops was located within my work vicinity at the digital city. Of course, the first time I went, I was skeptical but once I tasted the depth of the coffee flavours packed with cocoa, berry, caramel and a long lasting finish, not to mention exquisitely poured latte art, I thought, “this is actually good”. It is no wonder that I went there often not just for my daily cortado or flat white fix even in 45C but to hang out with my former colleagues too – and yes they too used a La Marzocco Strada machine. I have to say, 8OZ may be my fave coffee chain in the World to date.
Located at the bottom of the Panorama Mall, I first heard about the place from Dubai as the owner of this space called HUNA (it means here in Arabic), also owns one of my fave cafes in Dubai, Qahwaty. However for Brew Bar, he invited Huda, who was already famous in Saudi for developing a unique secret recipe for her home made cold brew coffee. Ahmed invited Huda to open up a cafe in Riyadh, serving coffee from Cypher of Dubai as well as other roasters. What you have here, is an unusual arty and intimate spot, stacked with Arabic literature, coffee, history and self help books. I went a few times and met friends here because I knew that the coffee would be good.
Newly opened in June 2021 but with a keen attention to detail, is this new spot, near the new King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD). My friend took me here as I was craving specialty coffee all day and we just beat the crowd, as literally once we entered, a queue of about 10 people formed. Now, I knew that people queued for coffee in Riyadh but at that time of the day I was lucky that I didn’t have to, as I was literally “coffee” starved.
Other spots I visited and worth mentioning
Very well respected with coffee lovers and winner of some awards is Elixir. They’ve got many locations too and I bought a really good but rare to find Democratic Republic of Congo arabica coffee here, which I brewed at home to the delight of my taste buds.
Situated opposite the very popular U-Walk, is Equal, where they serve Sulalat coffee, have a selfie mirror that attracts instagrammers and cool decor (top of the page).
Yes, I know that the name doesn’t sound very creative, but if you happen to visit U-Walk, which hosts some international restaurant brands, and you are craving coffee, then here’s my to-go- spot – I usually avoid chains. For coffee machine enthusiasts, you’ll be glad to see that they’ve got one of the most advanced espresso machines ever made, the San Marco OPERA along with other cool gadgets for brewing coffee.They also roast onsite and have ample seating area.
Another coffee spot that roasts it’s own coffee, with a great selection of coffee to take home.
I never got to visit this shop as it recently opened but the owner is a World Ibrik Turkish coffee champion and she will offer Turkish coffee as well as Third wave coffee too.
This list is by far not exhaustive and I’m sure since I was last in Riyadh (October 2021), more high end, speciality coffee shops have opened, where queues are forming even at midnight, but I’ve tried to give you a summary, so that when you are craving speciality coffee, you have options.
To find the locations, check instagram and google maps.
Welcome to Part 2 of this myth busting series about Freshly Roasted Coffee… the real test, which relates to how does coffee roasted several months ago, taste. Even though coffee can still smell fantastic, does it taste good too? Have you always been told that after 3-4 weeks of a coffee being roasted it won’t taste nice? A side note – did you know that according to the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), 80% of our taste is reliant on our smell ? Well 🤔 here’s a video debunking that myth as I now prepare and taste a coffee roasted 4 months ago, an Ethiopian coffee roasted for Mokha 1450 – a cafe in Dubai, which I was gifted by its proprietor , Garfield.
My recipe was
15g of freshly ground coffee
225ml of 95C hot filtered water (I use 95C with a ceramic V60 because the ceramic will extract some of the heat – another tip from an expert)
Pour for 50g and then the remaining 175g
Timed pour around 3 minutes max
Have you encountered any other coffee myths that you would like to bust?
You’ve probably heard me many times elaborate about how blessed I am. Blessed to be introduced to the coffee bean by its Creator and I can’t even count how many times I’ve had a wonderful coffee experiences, let alone the amount of times I’ve been given free coffee (there are many reasons for this). And the blessings continue.
So a few weeks ago, or is that months now, one of the baristi (plural for barista in Italian) from Butterworth & Son Coffee Roasters Lauren Small (aka I am the Anxious Barista on Instagram) reached out to me on Instagram and wanted to know if I would like to taste their coffees. Having researched them – yes I do this because I have been offered free coffee before BUT if I don’t think I’m going to have a pleasant experience, I decline – I politely accepted. However, as I had just moved to Dubai, I was concerned that it would cost a lot for them to send me about 1kg of coffee in terms of postage and registered delivery/courier charges but Lauren was insistent, so I succumbed. In any case, after one failed attempt, I decided it was far much easier to have Lauren send it to my brother in London who would then pass it onto our daughter, who would be visiting Dubai in mid-December and voila! just one day before she was due to leave, it arrived…. The things you do for coffee eh! Nevertheless, another blessing.
Not only did I receive coffee from them, they selected a very diverse group of coffee spanning the coffee world, two Africans, one central American and one South American – that sounded strange as I wrote that. Now, off to the coffees.
From reading the taste profile, I knew that this would be good for espresso and it was. I even invited a friend over to share the experience and well what did it taste like….
Chocolate but of course, especially when brewing it as my daily cappuccino. After a few days, you would be pleased to know that it never disappointed and always tasted like chocolate. Now how’s that for consistency and a good way to start the day.
Guatemala Honey Process
This one, I must confess was a bit tricky as I brewed it both as an espresso and as a filter (aeropress and HarioV60). I started off brewing this as an espresso and picked up hints of apricot but the Colombia (above) was so good as an espresso based coffee, that I moved over to brewing this solely as a filter, either on an aeropress or Hario V60, where I picked up hints of winey dried fruits.
Kenya Peaberry Washed
Now, it’s getting exciting. If you know me, you would know that I usually get excited about Kenyan coffees but I should probably add that Lauren, I presume, didn’t know that I love Kenyan coffees. Typically, Kenyan coffees when roasted right and of course brewed right tend to have traditional taste profiles of dark berries and this one obviously had that.
However what stood out for me when brewed this on a Hario V60 was the hints of lime and mint. Now you may be wondering, why Lime and Mint? but before you judge, it was not overpowering at all. It was like after you had the first sip, then there was this delicate flower taste of lime and mint afterwards. As the coffee got older and the days went by, the mint dominated and the lime diminished but nevertheless it was a truly pleasant experience all the way to the last bag… sigh.
I think I’ve saved the best for last. The experience with this coffee was further enhanced by my desire to start using my Chemex, which was given to me by my former colleagues as a leaving present way back in November 2019. I know, why did it take this long to use it ? but that’s another conversation. Prior to using the Chemex for the first time, I asked Lauren for their recipes (yes, each coffee shop has a recipe for how they brew their coffee per method, well serious coffee shops do). In this way, I wanted to ensure that I was brewing not just this coffee but the others too, using their recipe. In fact after this disclosure I have now amended how I brew Hario V60 to 20g with 300ml water.
Okay, so back to the Rwanda and the Chemex, now that could be a good movie title
Using their recipe of 300ml to 20g of coffee and my new Hario scales (thanks to my wife), I really enjoyed the process.
And how about the taste? Okay I may not have picked up strawberries and cream but Plum, medium citrus acidity and hints of buttery caramel were predominant. It was such a pleasant experience that I mainly brewed this coffee on the Chemex, despite its average brewing time of 5-6 minutes. On the Hario V60 and aeropress it was still nice but not as delicious as on the Chemex. In fact Lauren had recommended trying this as an espresso but I couldn’t take the risk of wasting 40-60 grammes of this delectable coffee during the espresso adjustment process, so I just stuck to the safer process of filter brew.
I just checked their website prior to writing this piece and sadly for you they don’t have this coffee anymore. Don’t worry, I empathise with you too as I had my last brew of this coffee early last month.
Just before I finish, kindly note that this is not paid sponsorship and I don’t get any money for bragging about my wonderful tastebud experience.
I’m not sure about the background of Butterworth and Son, who are based in St Edmunds, UK but I know that they do good tea too and from my experience, good coffee as well. I definitely recommend them and you have to love their artwork on there bags too.
Before I delve into this new post and just in case you were wondering…. Yes! I’ve moved to Dubai, UAE. Over the last few weeks, if you’ve been following me on Instagram, you would have noticed under my stories that I’ve been visiting many cafes and roasteries. On the latter, you would be pleased and coffee fixated to know that Dubai has many coffee roasteries – in fact I think someone should do an analysis of the amount of coffee froasteries per square mile/km within this bustling coffee fixated city.
One one such trip, I decided to visit Cypher Urban Roastery, after seeing a price on them on CNN, where they talked about the challenges during the pandemic of 2020.
On entering their roastery, situated in the coffee roastery district of them all, Al Qouz District, my fellow coffee nerd, Naveed and I were approached by a gentleman, who came out of his office and greeted us calmly. He then proceeded to offer to make is a coffee, for which we naturally went for a cortado, which he brewed using a Ugandan arabica.
Hints of sour cherry caramel came to my taste buds.
After that, he showered us with extensive coffee knowledge, nit just about Dubai but also about roasting and sourcing beans, which led to another culinary experience, where he brewed not just one, but two very special coffees from an extraordinary lot from Colombia using the Hario V60 method. If my memory serves me correctly, they were rated number 1 and 2 respectively in Colombia. Both were naturally from Cypher’s Nobility line, which means they are highly rated, cupping over 90.
The first, my favourite, had hints of guava, see above
The second one was still very special and was very fruity.
After that he gave us a tour of their roastery, from bag storage, to roasters, packing station and distribution outlet.
He also showed us a special Probat roaster that he designed with the owner.
All in all, a fantastic coffee experience, made extra special by Milo Sekulovic, a very modest gentleman indeed hailing from Serbia and of course, a Q grader and specialist coffee roaster.
Thanks Milo and Cypher for an extraordinary coffee experience.
The experience was even more exhilarating as I had my #dailycortado using #kenyancoffee
In honour of International coffee day on 1 October 2020, I decided to treat myself at one of Dubai’s iconic specialty coffee shops, The Espresso Lab, located at Dubai Design District. In fact this was my second visit, as I had visited them at the previous location in 2016, read here.
As you enter, you are greeted with a brew bar, featuring a Synesso espresso machine and many filter brew options ranging from cold drip, Hario V60, khalifa wave, etc and more, see pic below.
What was unusual for me, was the number of staff present. Let me explain; following the pandemic , I’ve noticed that most food and beverage establishments have cut down considerably on staff. I’ve always been in two minds about this because I always believe that this compromises on service delivery. Can you really provide the same level of quality customer experience ( I prefer this to service) with less people? Well, I don’t think so.
So, back to espresso lab. For me, with this amount of staff, it gave the impression that they were very focused on the customer and that each staff had clear guidelines on their job, so well done espresso lab.
Now, to the coffee. I love that they don’t serve espresso to go and don’t offer sugar, yay!
I knew I was craving espresso based coffee as I had to leave my espresso machine in Vienna until it is air freighted. On offer were 3 single origins; India, Yemen and Kenya. Now, if you know a bit about coffee origins and taste profiles, you’ll know that these choices are very unusual, especially for espresso. In case you are wondering, it’s very rare to brew Kenyan coffee on an espresso machine mainly because of the typical profile of bold, berry and citrus flavours. Although very uncommon at the moment, I must say since I’ve moved to Dubai, I’ve had close contact with Yemeni coffee, so, I decided to try the Kenya coffee. Check out the latte art pour by barista Wael below.
And wow! I wasn’t disappointed, as this was for me, one of the best milk based espresso drinks of 2020, a true treat, praise God. Well done to the barista Wael, who I quizzed endlessly before I placed my order. I salute his patience.
After that delightful experience, I knew I needed something sweet, so here comes the mini double layer carrot cake, topped with rose petals, another delicious treat. To compliment this experience I had a short black, americano with less water and discovered a book, “the monk of mokha“, which a friend mentioned to me a few years back, that I would like to buy and read.
Their menu is different and I plan to visit their newly opened roastery with another coffee nerd soon in order to learn more.
So, when in Dubai, I highly recommend a visit to espresso lab, located in building 7, Dubai Design District.
Ever wondered how I taste coffee in public when I go to a cafe? Well, here’s your chance, a first video of it’s kind, filmed by my patient daughter.
This visit was actually monumental as it was the first time I was going to Coffee Pirates (Cafe and Roastery), located at Spitalgasse 17, 1090 since it opened in July 2012. My daughter actually went there and told me about it, and I was like “I’ve been there before, but 8 years ago…”.
On my second visit, I went for a Kenyan Coffee from the Nyeri region, prepared using a Hario V60, which tends to bring out the fruitier undertones of the coffee.
Looking through Square Mile Coffee‘s instagram feed, it suddenly dawned on me that because of all the pandemic fiasco, I haven’t ordered coffee from them for several months. In part, this was due to my desire to support local coffee roasters in Vienna but I was also worried that if I ordered coffee from London, it might take several days to 2 weeks before I get my coffee, as post offices were using the excuse of covid to delay delivery. How wrong I was, because I actually got my coffee faster than pre-lockdown days. So, naturally I was delighted when they arrived a few days after I placed my order.
Included with my usual 2 bags of espresso and one of filter, was a gift, a 30g of a Kenyan coffee from Muchagara in Kenya’s Kirinyaga county. The first thing I noticed was the smell – WOW!, wow! wow! – probably the best smelling coffee I’ve smelt all year. Aware that I only had 2 opportunities to make this coffee, I made sure that I really measured them well. First up, I tried it on the aeropress, using 14g, which was more like blackcurrant BUT I knew that for me, brewing it on the Hario V60 would be the real test.
Using the remaining 16.5g (I got an additional 0.5g – yay!) with 250ml 95C hot water with my dear wife filming, Here’s my experience – to conclude…. ah that smell….
I picked up a bit of the cherry and some type of caramel sweetness and hints of citrus acidity.